A well written game narrative can really help us explore what it is to be a human being. I believe one of the best series of games for doing this sort of thing is the Fable franchise.
One of the clearest memeories of playing these games was how I got on with the dog character, who was my constant companion, in Fable 2. I could teach this faithful friend to do tricks, he found treasure for me. No matter where I was, he was there, and I loved him.
Unfortunately, towards the end of this game, this example of man’s virtual best friend takes a bullet for me. Sad faces all round. I have to say, I didn’t really get over his death. I even went through some kind of denial, expressed as the belief that the game would reward me for doing the right thing. This being my frame of mind, I chose to forsake money and family in favour of bringing back everyone who had died building the mysterious spire. Maybe the game would bring back my friend as a reward, maybe he wasn’t really gone.
I was wrong. I was dumped on the beach, with no dog in sight. My reaction to this was very extreme; I went into Bowerstone and turned everyone into a pile of embers.
Perhaps I don’t deal well with grief, which is the point really; the story of Fable 2 made me feel grief for a well put together dog-based game mechanic.
The next time the Fable franchise tested my humanity was in the third installment, when I removed my tyrannical brother from the throne and embarked on a year long career of being the best monarch Albion had ever experienced. Everybody I had promised something to was granted their wish. I bankrupted the kingdom and failed to raise an army.
Eventually, the darkness came and attacked Albion and, even though this dread enemy was defeated, the game went on to tell me that I will be remembered as the king who let Albion fall. Damn it!
This, of course, is an allegory for government. Everyone complains about the government of the day, mainly because those in power rarely give the people what they want, perhaps in favour of what they need.
In conclusion, a well written game story can make a player directly go through the stages of grief, explore what it is really like to govern, and much, much more. The computer game artform gives us a unique opportunity to truly test human experience, with well executed story techniques being essential to driving the design.